One last hurdle

  • NC, Maoists need to convince UML of the significance of delineation
One last hurdle

Jul 19, 2015-

The Supreme Court judgment on the 16-point agreement stated that it might be unconstitutional for the constitution to be promulgated without including the details on the federal structure. It also asked the parties to hold off drafting a constitution until the court reached a final decision on the matter. The parties were initially shocked by this judgment. Soon after, senior political leaders started saying that they would disregard it and move ahead with the process. Some politicians and civil society members even started vilifying the Supreme Court justice who had issued the order.

Soon afterwards, things began to take a slightly different turn. Some politicians started coming out in favour of the judgment. They argued that it would be best to delineate federal provinces before the constitution was drafted. Some others argued that going against the Supreme Court decision would be a violation of the rule of law. Over time, a decent number of leaders including those within the ruling Nepali Congress (NC) started advocating for the settlement of boundaries too. Meanwhile, the UCPN (Maoist) was also under pressure from its Madhesi and Janajati constituents to support the SC’s call. Over time, senior Maoist leaders started pushing for the delineation of boundaries before the promulgation of the constitution.

Some political leaders—across the political spectrum—and civil society stalwarts believe that it would be a bad idea to issue a constitution that would antagonise large sections of the population as well as violate the Court order. The constitution is meant to be the foundational document of this country and also a firm foundation for constitutionalism and the rule of law. It would, therefore, be ironic if it were to be promulgated through a violation of a Supreme Court order; that is to say, through a violation of the rule of law. A constitution promulgated in such a way cannot be durable.

However, there is still need for caution. The CPN-UML in particular does not seem happy with the idea of promulgating a constitution that includes delineation on federalism. Its leaders state that while they have no problem with the idea of federalism in principle, the debate over delineation should not be allowed to delay the promulgation of the constitution. However, the fact of the matter is that a slightly delayed constitution is preferable to the one that goes against the Supreme Court judgment and antagonises large sections of the population. If the UML pushes to promulgate a constitution as soon as possible while compromising the due process, it will be seen as having far greater concern for its desire to wrest premiership from the NC, rather than respect for both the durability of the constitution and the SC order. NC and UCPN (Maoist) leaders—two other major signatories to the 16-point agreement—should meanwhile seek to convince the UML the significance of a broad agreement and political buy-in on federal provinces before the constitution is promulgated.

Published: 20-07-2015 08:11

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